Saying no to a big-dollar deal in China has made Socceroo Tomi Juric far richer than money ever could
Photo Source: AAP
Having shunted Tim Cahill onto the Socceroos bench and reached the best physical condition of his career, Tomi Juric says he has no regrets about turning his back on Chinese millions.
Juric could have become Australia's wealthiest footballer had he accepted a three-year deal to transfer from Western Sydney to Shanghai Shenhua last year, worth a reported $10 million.
Instead the 25-year-old said no, and it's paying even richer dividends.
After a string of injuries curtailed his output as an A-League player, Juric finally has his body right and is a regular for his new club, Switzerland's FC Luzern, where he has scored three times in 12 games this season.
His form has also relegated Cahill, Australia's all-time leading goalscorer, to an impact role off the bench - at least for the time being.
"You can't buy positions that you're in. You have to work for them," Juric told AAP.
"China's a little bit backtracked in a professional football sense, anyway. A few of the boys have told me it's really difficult there - you get good coin and that, but it's hard to keep your body in the right shape and to eat the right food.
"At this moment I'm in the right spot."
Juric partly credits his fitness coach at Luzern - a former bodybuilder - for helping him overcome his groin troubles but says the Socceroos' medical and sports science staff and their around-the-clock tracking of fitness levels has been key.
Every player under Ange Postecoglou's watch is required to enter daily information about their sleeping patterns, club training loads and fatigue levels into a smartphone app, so when they come into camp, coaches know exactly what they can handle and what they can't.
"It's a pain in the arse to be honest but it works," he said.
"That's why when I come here, it's the best. It's whatever it takes and it's showing. All I do is eat, sleep, train, repeat."
Juric is a good chance to start in Thursday night's World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia (Friday morning AEDT), with Cahill again expected to be used as a second-half substitute.
"Obviously the A-League season's not underway yet, which works in my favour to get some game-time here," he said.
"But once I hit January, that's when I'll hit my stride, and if I can keep it up injury-free until then I've got every chance of progressing on the footpath I'm on.
"I look at Ivica Olic, who I know from my days when I was in Croatia. He made it to CSKA Moscow when he was 25. Then he went to Hamburg at 27, Bayern Munich at 29. Football changes very quickly."